Eradicating John Calhoun’s Name Is More easy Than Erasing His Racist Legacy

Eradicating John Calhoun’s Name Is More easy Than Erasing His Racist Legacy
The Conversation

When I toured the South Carolina Governor’s Mansion in 2019, I seen the multi-quantity papers of John C. Calhoun on show. It struck me as outstanding that Calhoun’s suggestions would be featured so prominently given his stuffed with life defense of slavery and his role in laying the groundwork for the Civil War.

However the reality is Calhoun’s legacy unless now has been pretty prominent in American society—and never correct within the South.

His statue stands between the 2 chambers of the Apartment and Senate within the South Carolina Statehouse. Nevertheless, a separate statue in Charleston has been eradicated from the metropolis square following nationwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd at some stage in an detect with police. The statue had stood for 124 years correct a block from Mother Emanuel Church, role of the horrific capturing bloodbath in 2015 of nine Gloomy worshipers by an avowed white supremacist. The church is additionally located on Calhoun Avenue.

Despite his historical prominence, Calhoun’s days as a revered icon within the general public sphere are step by step coming to an stop.

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A worker uses a saw at the foot of the statue of John C. Calhoun atop the monument in his honor at Marion Square in Charleston, South Carolina.

Sean Rayford/Getty

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A worker uses a saw at the foot of the statue of John C. Calhoun atop the monument in his honor at Marion Square in Charleston, South Carolina.

Sean Rayford/Getty


A whole lot of cities and counties, streets and roads, faculties and other public areas are named for Calhoun, a slaveholder who served as secretary of divulge, secretary of battle, a U.S. senator, and two terms as vice president.

For instance, the Calhoun Relate Put of job Building sits within the capitol complex in Columbia, South Carolina’s divulge capital metropolis.

There are counties named for him in his dwelling divulge, apart from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and elsewhere within the South. There is even a Calhoun County in Michigan named for him.

Notable streets in Columbia and Charleston, soundless endure his title.

Despite his prominence elsewhere, Calhoun is ready to change into less prominent on the landscape of American elevated education.

The board of trustees at Clemson College, a public university, announced on June 12 that its Honors College would now not be named after Calhoun.

South Carolina’s “Heritage Act” prevents renaming of buildings without legislative approval, but the honors college is an organizational unit, now not a constructing.

Here is a in particular indispensable development offered that Clemson College sits on what used to be as soon as Calhoun’s plantation, which his daughter and her husband, Thomas Clemson, inherited.

Whereas public memorials of Calhoun appear like on the decline, what I gain more indispensable—and more difficult—is the model that Calhoun’s ideology has been ingrained within the American custom and psyche, thanks in enormous part to the model his suggestions had been embraced in U.S. establishments of elevated finding out long after his loss of life.

I execute this commentary as a historian and creator of a chapter for the upcoming e-book Persistence By strategy of Anguish: Episodes of College Existence and Tutorial Patience within the Civil War South.

Calhoun, who used to be born in 1782 and died a decade earlier than the Civil War started, in 1850, used to be now not most attention-grabbing a slaveholder and an ardent defender of slavery, but a first-rate architect of the political system that allowed slavery to persist.

More enduring than the implications of his political profession—which included the annexation of Texas to execute greater the number of slaveholding states—are the repercussions of his political ideology.

As a political theorist, Calhoun is most attention-grabbing identified for 2 suggestions: “concurrent majority” and “nullification.” A concurrent majority is the concept that a minority of the electorate—particularly, one with money and property—can veto a political majority.

This concept is expounded to his perception in nullification theory, which is the postulate that a divulge can void federal guidelines. Nullification made the postulate of South Carolina seceding from the nation—and the creation of the Confederacy—a political possibility after which a actuality.

Calhoun laid out his arguments for these suggestions in his treatise “A Disquisition on Authorities.”

Whereas some American citizens defended slavery as a “well-known disagreeable” Calhoun considered slavery as “a sure correct.”

He held paternalistic views of Gloomy folk apart from other non-whites, declaring: “We execute a enormous mistake after we order that every folk are capable of self-executive.”

<div class= Nationwide Portrait Gallery

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Nationwide Portrait Gallery


Calhoun’s political doctrines had been taught explicitly at college college rooms for a protracted time after his loss of life. There are soundless remnants within the curriculum.

His personal views on nullification theory, states’ rights and secession had been formed when he studied at Yale College where the college’s president, Timothy Dwight, launched to him the postulate that Unique England might per chance presumably well additionally coast away the younger nation and change into a separate country. Yale named a residential college in his honor in 1931. It renamed it in 2017 after the phenomenal stress from students and alumni that followed the Charleston bloodbath at the Mother Emanuel Church.

Within the chapter that I’m writing for Persistence through Anguish, I’m explaining how Calhoun’s ideologies permeated Southern establishments of elevated education. His views had been taught at the Defense pressure Academy of South Carolina, earlier than, at some stage in and after the Civil War. When these cadets studied the U.S. Structure, their professors and texts emphasised Calhoun’s interpretation of it.

John Peyre Thomas, a Castle graduate and Confederate Military colonel who served as professor, superintendent and later trustee at The Castle, heaped reward upon Calhoun, having served as editor for The Carolina Tribute to Calhoun in 1857.

In a speech given at Clemson College on June 22, 1897, Thomas declared, “It is miles conceded that Calhoun’s same old within the science of executive is so lofty as in some respects to be inconceivable in our day and know-how.”

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A portrait of dilapidated senator John C. Calhoun inserting on the wall approach the U.S. Senate Chamber in 2015.

Mark Wilson/Getty

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A portrait of dilapidated senator John C. Calhoun inserting on the wall approach the U.S. Senate Chamber in 2015.

Mark Wilson/Getty


Decades of teaching a particular doctrine attain now not depart without anguish or snappy. The United States is now witnessing one other racial awakening with protests for social justice. Symbols of racism and white supremacy are being eradicated from elevated education.

On June 17, the College of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees reversed its 16-300 and sixty five days moratorium on renaming buildings, establish in role after the statue identified as “Soundless Sam” used to be torn down in 2018.

The College Design of Georgia, which involves the College of Georgia, additionally moved in June 2020 to study the names of its buildings. This would comprise the College of Georgia’s Grady Faculty of Journalism, which is named after Henry Grady, an avowed white supremacist.

After Calhoun’s loss of life in 1850, his colleague within the Senate, Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, remarked about him: “He’s now not ineffective. There’ll probably be no vitality in his body, but there is in his doctrines.” He used to be prophetic in his phrases.

Calhoun’s ideologies fueled the Civil War, gave comfort to those that believed within the “Lost Trigger” (that is, to level to the Civil War within the correct light ability from the Confederate level of explore) and perpetuated the teaching of racist and white supremacist attitudes.

Since the suggestions he espoused dangle flourished, I have confidence that dismantling his legacy will exhaust phenomenal greater than correct disposing of statues of his likeness or renaming buildings, streets and other public areas named in his honor.

Christian K. Anderson is an associate professor at the College of South Carolina

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